In the fall of 2010 the Worthington Instructional Technology Team articulated a vision for the future of Worthington Technology titled “Anywhere, Anytime, Any Device.” This vision has been guiding the direction Worthington has been moving steadily for the past 18 months.
Slowly Worthington has been progressing towards this “Anywhere, Anytime, Any Device” philosophy. Over the past 18 months the Worthington IT department has outfitted all Worthington Schools with a robust wireless network. Web-based email has been opened for students and staff and all staff have been provided with an override to the web-filter to access educational materials. Recently the Worthington Board of Education passed policy Wireless Communication Device Policy that will allow students to bring their own devices to school and utilize them for learning at all levels. In the fall of 2012 Worthington High School students will have access to social networking sites, You-tube and other non-pornographic material that was previously filtered by the school district. In addition in August of 2012 a new student data management system and website should provide parents and students with 24/7 access to student grades, assignments, contact information and school event calendars.
Students, regardless of community demographics, socio-economic backgrounds, gender and grade, tell us year after year that the lack of sophisticated use of emerging technology tools in schools is, in fact, holding back their education and in many ways, disengaging them from learning.” 1 So our task is to unlock the potential use of these technologies within the available resources for staff development, technology purchases and support, while continuing to provide direction to students keeping them on track and attentive to the main curriculum goals. Being on the bleeding edge of implementation of new technologies provides little, yet we need to be prepared to allow students and staff to use emerging technologies as the technologies become mainstream. According to the Speak Up 2009 report, the “Free Agent Learner” is “increasingly taking responsibility for their own learning, defining their own education path through alternative sources”1 with more personalized and self-directed options. The report describes three essential elements for the student’s educational path.”
• Social-based learning – students want to leverage emerging communications and collaboration tools to create and personalize networks of experts to inform their education process
• Un-tethered learning – students envision technology-enabled learning experiences that transcend the classroom walls and are not limited by resource constraints, traditional funding streams, geography, community assets or even teacher knowledge and skills.
• Digitally-rich learning – students see the use of relevancy-based digital tools, content and resources as a key to driving learning productivity, not just about engaging students in learning.” 1
Social-based learning makes use of instant messaging, email, social networks, chats, forums, blogs, wikis, and online games or simulations with purposes including posting, discussion, mentoring, and tutoring. Through this path students can expand their learning environment beyond their classroom.
Un-tethered learning allows the use of iPods, desktops, laptops, tablets, netbooks, cell phones, and all type of technology for purposes including internet research, note taking, projects, videos, presentations, and experiments. Additionally un-tethered learning can move the student beyond classroom seat time to online courses, internships and other educational experiences. Students believe the variety of access can improve their personal productivity, place them more in control and expand their learning.
Digitally-rich learning includes the use of such media in the classroom plus the capability for students to generate media such as slide shows, audio, web pages and videos. Many students are already doing this in their daily lives. “This process of creating content from other content is a key characteristic of the Free Agent Learner who relishes the learning opportunities presented through interactive experiences.” 1
Facebook was launched in 2004, GMAIL and Twitter launched in 2006. 2007 brought the Amazon Kindle and the IPhone. In 2009 Barnes and Noble launched the Nook and in 2010 Apple made the tablet computer mainstream with the IPAD. In 2011 Worthington residents could download books from the Worthington Library directly to their digital device from the comfort of their own home. This is only a small slice of the shift in technology in the last seven years. What will the next seven years bring to Worthington Schools? How will external shifts in technology innovation impact teaching and learning in Worthington? Will Worthington students be equipped to take advantage of emerging technologies? It is obvious that Worthington Schools cannot stand pat with current technology and infrastructure. We must continue to invest in this area so Worthington students remain competitive nationally.